web analytics
September 3, 2015 / 19 Elul, 5775
At a Glance
Blogs
Sponsored Post


The ‘Maharat': Wonderful Achievement, Bad Idea

the title rabbi (or its equivalent) is more than about recognition of achievement.

Maharat

When I was a young man around the time I was studying for semicha at the Hebrew Theological College, I had written article in a now defunct local Jewish magazine, the Sentinel. It was in response to a scathing attack against the idea of ordaining women by a prominent rosh yeshiva (yeshiva dean).

I explained that the title rabbi stems from the word “rebbe” which literally means teacher. As such there was nothing wrong with calling a woman educated to teach Judaism with that title. That was over 40 years ago. Some would say that I was ahead of my time.

But I was wrong and regret writing it. I was wrong because in my impetuous youth I did not understand what I understand today, that something which is not a black and white issur (prohibition) does not necessarily make it a good idea to pursue. Nor did I understand that breaking with tradition can open a Pandora’s box that will be counter-productive to our future.

The truth is that there are Halachic issues with female rabbis. I’ve discussed them before in essays where I argued against the ordination of women. It is not that I am a misogynist. I personally have no problem with female rabbis. But I would not have any problem counting women into Minyan either. Except that Halacha does not allow me to do that. There are Halachic issues with respect to female rabbis too. Like serara. While I have no personal problem with it, I have a Halachic problem with it. Women are forbidden by Halacha to take positions of leadership in certain Jewish areas. Like Shuls.

I had also argued in the past that even though women can serve in other areas the way rabbis do (e.g., teachers) the primary and historic function of a rabbi has always been in a shul as a pulpit rabbi. Leaving aside the issue of serara it is highly impractical and awkward for a woman to be the rabbi of a shul.

The primary function of a shul is prayer – doing so with a minyan. A woman may not be counted into a minyan and may not be present in the actual sanctuary of a shul with the men unless she is separated by a mechitza (partition). While a rabbi can have a position outside of the actual area of prayer – like in a classroom or as a principal or a pastoral marriage counselor, that has always been a secondary role. Even though there are ways where a woman can technically lead from ‘behind the mechitza’ and address the members with a D’var Torah from a podium after the service… I think it is safe to say that this is a highly impractical way for a spiritual leader of a shul to function.

There are also perception issues. When an Orthodox Shul lists a woman as a rabbi a public unfamiliar with the nuances of Halacha on this issue can make the mistaken assumption that the Shul has broken with Halacha.

So while there may be ways to skirt the Halacha and technically not violate it – it isn’t pretty… and in my view undermines the spirit if not the letter of the law. What is gained on some sort of equal rights way is lost by the radical departure from normative Orthodoxy.

Which is the reason I agree with the Rabbinical Council of Amercia (RCA) position on the recent graduation of three women clergy from Yeshivat Maharat. They have rejected it. In an article in the Forward RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin explained it as a violation of our Mesorah – tradition:

“We feel extremely strongly that there is certainly room for women leadership within the Orthodox community, both educationally and professionally,” RCA President Rabbi Shmuel Goldin told the Forward. “We do not believe, however, that it is appropriate for women to be ordained as rabbis.”

Goldin added that he did not think the school was defying the Orthodox community but rather was “moving in ways that are removing it from the normative Orthodox community. It’s not a question of defiance, it’s a question of direction.”

I completely agree. Calling a woman a “maharat” instead of rabbi is an irrelevant distinction. A spiritual leader, a maharat, and a rabbi are all the same thing. That Yeshivat Maharat founder Rabbi Avi Weiss gave in to pressure- promising not to call his graduates rabba (his feminization of the word rabbi) is really a meaningless gesture. With apologies to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – a rose by any other name is still a rose.

About the Author: Harry Maryles runs the blog "Emes Ve-Emunah" which focuses on current events and issues that effect the Jewish world in general and Orthodoxy in particular. It discuses Hashkafa and news events of the day - from a Centrist perspctive and a philosphy of Torah U'Mada. He can be reached at hmaryles@yahoo.com.

The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.

If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “The ‘Maharat': Wonderful Achievement, Bad Idea”

  1. Myriam Obadia says:

    Not I would ever want to be a Rabbi (or even a Maharat), but you haven't convinced me that your reasoning is sound in the matter. It seems to me that you rely on sophistry more than on logic.

  2. David Willig says:

    What about if we called them CHAPLAINS. If they were allowed to serve in Hospitals, nursing homes and the ARMY. Why is it that Rebbetzins can do all sorts of things that learned woman, who are not married to Rabbis, are not allowed to do.

Comments are closed.

Binyamin and Chaya Maryles, uncle and aunt of Emes Ve-Emunah author Harry Maryles.
Current Top Story
Jim Bennett, zl, father of Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi party chairman Naftali Bennett.
Father of Naftali Bennett, Jim Bennett, 73, Passes Away
Latest Blogs Stories
Doug Goldstein

Why is the study of demographics essential to predict the economy?

Seems Obama "Loved" Sderot when he was running to be Pres.

Jews & Israel will have a smaller role and value in the 2016 Pres. election campaign than in decades

obamatargetiran

No one wants war; sometimes there’s no choice. Sometimes it’s the lesser of 2 evils. US must prepare

Palestinians attack an Israeli soldier during clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters, Aug28, 2015, in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh near Ramallah.

Despite many IDF soldiers jailed for defending themselves, families say,”Rather jailed than dead.”

Why won’t the gov’t finally annex YESHA & Jordan Valley formalizing their status in State of Israel?

Both “Half-Shabbat” & R’ Yosef’s opinion champion an extreme. There most certainly is a happy medium

Trump’s slogan and story gives American restores hope to dream to: “Make America Great Again”

Is GDP outdated an measure of prosperity? Are there any alternative methods of assessing $ growth?

In their attack on Ban Ki Moon, Hamas admitted to committing a different war crime.

The ideal of Modern Orthodoxy should be not be viewed as a compromise the way most Charedim view it.

Israel shouldn’t rely on US; It has an awful record in protecting allies.

The Halacha of shmirat einayim (guarding one’s eyes) is incumbent on the MAN; it’s his obligation

Dem. presidential candidate Doug Shreffler talks about his campaign & its motto “as good as it gets”

I’ve decided to move away from my safety net-and I wouldn’t change that decision for anything.

Was “Jerusalem” the song Matisyahu planned to perform? It was the PERFECT response to BDS campaign

More Articles from Harry Maryles
obamatargetiran

No one wants war; sometimes there’s no choice. Sometimes it’s the lesser of 2 evils. US must prepare

Rabbi Norman Lamm of Yeshiva University

The ideal of Modern Orthodoxy should be not be viewed as a compromise the way most Charedim view it.

The Halacha of shmirat einayim (guarding one’s eyes) is incumbent on the MAN; it’s his obligation

Calling the Jewish Press‘closest thing to a frum English-language weekly’ insults the publication

Professor Cohen’s quotes statistics proving Reform & Conservative Judaism are in free fall.

Most that struggle abandon observance altogether. Why did these 3 remain observant?

Esav Sonei L’Yaakov: Is this how we should think of all non Jews?

Surprisingly, many Hareidi communities do not advocate full time Kollel study for life as the ideal.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/the-maharat-wonderful-achievement-bad-idea/2013/05/16/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: